What I will carry forward

“This patient is hard to reach by phone. Her daughter is usually the one who comes to pick up her medications, so make sure you give her a call first before trying other phone numbers.”

I can’t help but smile as I write this note for the next person who will take over my at my host site, remembering the lively and talkative woman that I had met a few months ago. As I begin the process of transitioning out of my role as a Patient Advocate at Health Center 10, I find myself reminiscing about the different patients who I’ve met over the past several months. For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to capture the various application and medication specifications of each person that I’ve met, so that whoever takes over for me is better equipped to serve them. However, if I could write the most striking details about the patients I’ve seen, it wouldn’t be the medications they were taking. My notes would probably go something like this:

“This lady has an amazing signature and works long hours –
sometimes she just needs to talk.”
“This man will get really excited and call you ‘mi hija’ if you speak to him in Spanish.
He’s a hugger too!”
“This guy just got a new job that he’s really excited about,
make sure you ask him how it’s going.”

When I first began this program, the nature of the role seemed as though it didn’t encourage extensive patient contact. Based on my initial understanding, I would meet the patients, get some information about their insurance status and income, fill out an application, and then the only times I would see them after that would be when they came to pick up their medications. Now, nine months down the line, I’m amazed at how many of my patients I will genuinely miss seeing and talking to. Whether it’s the older Indian lady who patiently listened and smiled at my broken attempts at speaking to her in Hindi, the young mom who always brings her kid in to say hi, or the quiet older gentleman who always talks about his wife and gives me a high-five when he picks up his medication – getting to know the diverse set of people that I’ve met and been able to serve have made these past months some of the most fun and enriching of my pre-medical career.


These experiences have also reminded me why I am so interested in medicine and primary care. Oftentimes it’s the most complicated patients that I have formed the deepest connections with, whether through explaining a long application to them, helping them understand how the different programs work, or even sitting with them while they apply for insurance. The more time I spend with these patients, the more I appreciate the type of relationship I’m able to have with them. I’ve become increasingly grateful for the faith that they have in me as well as the time it took to earn it, and that faith motivates me to serve them to the best of my abilities. My patients have all been essential to my development both as an advocate and as a professional. As a physician, I want to be the type of provider that my patients can rely on, who they can come to when they don’t understand something; my time serving with National Health Corps has helped me understand just how essential and rewarding that relationship can be. However, the most important lesson from the program that I want to carry into the future is to continue to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual I meet, because it’s that uniqueness that has made every interaction infinitely more rewarding.

This blog post was written by NHC Philadelphia member Menaka Dhingra.
Menaka serves as a Patient Advocate at Philadelphia Department of Public Health Ambulatory Health Services - Health Center 10.